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How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime

How to Launch a Business Without Spending a Dime
Money

The biggest mistake I see first time entrepreneurs make is that they spend too much money.

They rent an office or retail location, pay big incorporation fees, hire employees, and build an expensive website (just to name a few). And all before they’ve earned their first dollar!

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Each month their cash reserves get lower and lower while they struggle to make sales to cover their expenses. Eventually the fledgling business dies with no cash flow, leaving the owner hurt emotionally and financially.

Luckily, it is possible (and actually quite simple) to start up a business without spending a dime. The beauty of using this method is that you can test out a new business idea quickly and with zero risk. And instead of spending time negotiating leases or dealing with employees, you can spend 100% of your time on the most important thing: making that first sale!

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The first thing you’ve got to do is get past the idea of spending. Work out of your home or Starbucks on nights and weekends. Instead of hiring employees just get started with what you can do yourself, or ask friends for help. Don’t incorporate just yet, be a sole proprietorship. Don’t hire an expensive graphic artist to make your logo, stick with something simple…you get the idea.

You can spend money on all that stuff once you are bringing in revenue!

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Now to actually get started, here are 10 steps you can use to launch a new business, without spending a dime. The first five are logistical. The last five are all free ways to market your business (after all, the most important step is bringing in that first sale!)

  1. Get an EIN at the IRS website
    This one is specific to the USA, but all companies need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for one online at the irs.gov in about 5 minutes by clicking here. List yourself as a sole proprietor for now.
  2. Setup Your Business Financials
    Get a free business checking account. This will allow you to keep your business’s money separate and track it (vitally important!). I like Washington Mutual’s free business checking. They will also give you a debit card to track your expenses (never use a credit card) which are currently zero! Then get a Paypal account and link it to your business account so you can accept payments.
  3. Choose a domain name
    The fastest ways to get eyeballs on your new business is the internet these days. Choose a domain name that is a keyword phrase your potential customers might type into a search engine. So if you are offering salsa lessons in Boston, you might choose “SalsaLessonsBoston.com”. The benefit of doing this is that you will most likely end up on the first page of Google results for that keyword phrase within a month or two. This will bring your customesr, and is much better than showing up on the first page for “John Smith’s Salsa Company” or something that no one ever searches for.
  4. Make a simple website
    The fastest way I know of to launch a website is using WordPress (wordpress.com or wordpress.org). If you don’t mind using a subdomain like “mydomain.wordpress.com” it’s free. But even if you want your own domain you can get one with WordPress pre-installed for about $70/year. WordPress comes with over 2500 “themes” to change the look and a great back end interface to edit the pages just like you’re in Microsoft word. LifeHack.org uses WordpPress as do many other popular sites.
  5. Set Your Prices
    Most first time entrepreneurs set their prices too low. People assume low prices mean low quality, and you are worth more. Give away your product or service to the first five customers free if you’d like (it will help built buzz and you can ask them for testimonials), but after that set your price in the top 1/3 of your industry. It’s always easier to lower them than to raise them.
  6. Start Marketing on CraigsList.com
    The next five steps are all free marketing. Start by making regular posts on Craigslist.com. This is a free classified website that attracts millions of viewers. You can get some traffic to your website instantly by making some posts here, and you should continue to repost them every few days.
  7. Start a Meetup.com Group
    Meetup.com helps people with similar interests get together. If a group exists in your area with potential customers, join it. Try to be invited as a guest speaker and offer value to members of the group (don’t pitch them). Just by making friends and helping out you will start to bring in business. If a MeetUp group for your topic doesn’t exist yet, that’s even better. Start one up! You’ll be viewed as the authority in the area.
  8. Post a Video to YouTube.com
    YouTube is a video sharing website, and it gets ridiculous amounts of traffic. It’s actually easier to make a video than you think, and it doesn’t have to be professional at all. You can record one with your digital camera, make a screen recording of your computer (even a powerpoint presentation) with software like Camtasia, or purchase a $20 webcam. Teach or show something useful, and include a link to your site at the end of the video. You will get traffic!
  9. Network
    Send an email to all your friends and family (and really everyone on your contact list) telling them about the business you just started. Put a note at the end asking them to forward the note to anyone they know who might be interested (and tell them about the free offer for the first five customers). You’ll not only reach your network, but you’ll reach your network’s network (an exponential difference). You should also get people’s business cards that you meet (far more effective than giving them since few people will write you back) and offer to help them.
  10. Write an Article and Give it Away!
    Even if you aren’t a writer, you can put together a great article. Think of something your potential customers might want to know. Then write a “top ten” list (e.g. the top ten beginner salsa moves) or a “ten step” format (e.g. the then steps to learning salsa basics). Contact the owners of a dozen different websites that your potential customers might visit, and see if they’d like to use your article for free. Include a link to your website at the bottom in the “About the Author” section.

Using this simple format you can launch a new business in about a month, and hopefully make your first sale. But the best part is, even if it doesn’t work, you’ve learned a priceless lesson and risked little or no money.

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Don’t spend a single red cent that isn’t absolutely required when launching a new business! See if your idea works first, and then spend AFTER you’ve made your first sale!

Brian Armstrong is the author of Breaking Free, which shows how to quit your job and start your first business! You can download three FREE chapters of the book and sign up for his FREE online course

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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